One of the music's great aristocrats, violinist Henryk Szeryng was a perfectionist in all things. A man of phenomenal intellect, he combined exemplary musical taste with a super-refined technique and ravishing purity of intonation.

Julian Haylock – THE STRAD July 2009

HENRYK SZERYNG

1918-1988

1918

22 September

Henryk Boleslaw Szeryng is born in Warsaw, Poland.

1925

Henryk Szeryng - 1923 - Warsaw
1925 - 1927

Violin studies with Maurice Frenkel, student of Leopold Auer in St.Peterburg.
Szeryng about Frenkel:
One of his most valuable instructions was: “When playing the violin, your left elbow has to be exactly on the level of your heart”.

1927

Audition for Bronislaw Huberman. "The boy has great talent with hands like Jascha Heifetz", he says afterwards and advises further studies in Berlin and Paris.
Szeryng about Huberman:
"When he was discussing music, it was more than a lesson; it was opening new horizons that were not actually visible. Bronislaw Huberman was responsible for my becoming a violinist."

1928

1928 - 1930

Studying with Willi Hess in Berlin.
Szeryng about his time in Berlin:
"My first year was particularly difficult, I was only 10 and my knowledge of German was rather inadequate."

Henryk Szeryng - 1929 - Berlin

1930

Henryk Szeryng - 1932 - Carl Flesch master class Baden-Baden
1930 – 1933

Studying with Carl Flesch the entire great violin repertoire at the „Staatliche Hochschule für Musik“ in Berlin and in Baden-Baden (master classes 1932 and 1933).

Henryk Szeryng - 1932 - Baden-Baden

1933

The young Brahms
6 January

Szeryng makes his debut as a concert artist.
Performance in Warsaw - Johannes Brahms: violin concerto in D, op.77 – Warsaw Philharmonic, conductor is Georges Georgescu.
Szeryng about Brahms: "If there was anybody who loved beauty, it was Brahms. I feel very close to Brahms - and let’s hope that Brahms feels close to me!"


Summer

Audition in Paris for the Polish Prime Minister and composer Ignaz Paderewski.
Szeryng about Paderewski:"He was very kind, had beautiful manners, radiating so much goodness, so much dignity. He was impressive, not only because of who he was, but also because of the way, he looked: tall with beautiful hair, covering part of his shoulders. He was such a regal type."


17 December

First performance in Paris - Salle Pleyel - Johannes Brahms: violin concerto in D, op.77 – Paris Symphony Orchestra, conductor is Pierre Monteux.

1934

Bruno Walter dedication
13 April

Second performance in Warsaw: Ludwig van Beethoven: violin concerto in D, op.61 - Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor is Bruno Walter.


31 October

First performance in Vienna in the presence of Arturo Toscanini - Otto Schulhof, piano.

1935

With Jacques Thibaud <em>(to the right)</em> – 1962
1935 – 1936

Studying in Paris almost the entire French violin literature under the guidance of Jacques Thibaud.

1936

April

Performance in Lausanne - Swisss premiere of Karol Szymanowski’s violin concerto #2 - Orchestre de la Radio de la Suisse Romande, conductor is Hans Haug.
Simultaneously Pavel Kochansky, the violinist to whom the concerto had been dedicated, premieres it in Warsaw and later in New York. Zino Francescatti will premiere it in Paris with the Orchestre des Concerts Colonne under Paul Paray.

With Paul Paray - Early 1960ies

Henri Rabaud dedication
Conservatory of Paris Registration
18 November

Enters the class of Gabriel Bouillon at the Paris National Conservatory. Director of the Conservatory is the composer and conductor Henri Rabaud (1873-1949).

1937

16 July

Graduation from the Conservatory with the First Prize, "Premier Nommé des Hommes et Femmes" and the Sarasate Prize.
Szeryng gets his first fine instrument: the Andrea Guarnerius 1683 "Sancta Theresiae". The violin had belonged to the Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) at the time when he composed the "Devil’s thrill". Later, Nicolò Paganini’s only student, Camille Sivori (1815-1894), owned the violin.

Conservatory of Paris - Prizes 1937

Studying with Nadia Boulanger, renowned composition teacher in Paris.

1939

Autumn

Encounter with the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile, General Wladyslaw Sikorski at his headquarters in Paris. Szeryng becomes a volunteer in the Polish Army abroad. Beginning of 1940 he gives numerous benefit concerts for the Polish Army in Paris and France.

1940

Henryk Szeryng – Mendoza, Argentina – 1942
With Rafael Á. Calderón Guardia, President of Costa Rica - 1942
November

Emigrates to Brazil. For a couple of years Rio de Janeiro will be his basis from where he will develop a regular concert activity in South America, combined with diplomatic missions for the Polish Government in Exile.

1942

December

First visit to Mexico City with General Sikorski, who is in search of a home for about 4.000 Polish refugees displaced by the war. The Mexican President Manuel Ávila Camacho offers them asylum and assures Henryk Szeryng that he will always be welcome to live in Mexico.

1943

Spring

Establishes his residence in Mexico City.


18 July

First performance in Mexico City – world premiere of Manuel M. Ponce’s violin concerto (dedicated to Henryk Szeryng) - Orquesta Sinfónica de México, conductor is Carlos Chavez.

1945

May

From 1945 to 1956: professor at the Universidad Autónoma de México – reorganization of the Mexican violin school.

1948

21 October

Becomes a Mexican citizen.

1950

With Arthur Rubinstein - Paris – 1959
With Arthur Rubinstein - Hollywood – 1950
Summer

Encounters Arthur Rubinstein in Mexico City.


That same year they prepare future recordings. (In 1958 they record Beethoven’s „Spring“ and Kreutzer“ Sonata, in 1960 the three Brahms Sonatas, later in 1972 with Pierre Fournier the three Brahms Trios and in 1974 the Schumann as well as the Schubert Trios op.99 und 100).

1953

Recordings

1955

Recording

1956

The Mexican Government names Szeryng Mexican Roving Ambassador for Culture and Goodwill. He is the first artist to travel henceforth on a diplomatic passport.



Recording

1959

Recording

1961

Performance in Mexico City – world premiere of the definite version of the violin concerto by Carlos Chavez - Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México, conductor is the composer.



Recording

1962

Performance in Paris – world premiere of the violin concerto#2 by Jean Martinon (dedicated to Henryk Szeryng) –Théâtre des Champs Elysées - Orchestre Philharmonique de la Radio Télévision Française, conductor is the composer.

With Jean Martinon – 1962
Jean Martinon’s dedication of his violin concerto


With Paul Paray - Early 1960ies

Recording

1963

February

Performance in Boston - World premiere of the violin concerto #2 by Benjamin Lees (dedicated to Henryk Szeryng) – Boston Symphony.

With Benjamin Lees - 1963

1964

Recordings

1965

7 October

Performance in New York - Carnegie Hall – USA Premiere of the violin concerto by Carlos Chavez - New York Philharmonic, conductor is Leonard Bernstein.

1966

Recording

1967

Recordings

1968

Henryk Szeryng – 1987

The editor Schott Music asks Henryk Szeryng to prepare their new edition of the Bach Solo Sonatas and Partitas. It will be published in 1981 (ED 6850).


Recording

1969

Recordings

1970

Szeryng discovers the long-lost third violin concerto by Nicolò Paganini at the home of his great-granddaughters. He composes the cadenzas and records the concerto under the Philips label in January 1971 with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Alexander Gibson.

Manuscript Cover of the Violin Piano Reduction of Paganini
Recording Paganini 3rd Concerto


5 May

Is appointed Honorary Adviser of the Mexican Permanent Delegation at UNESCO.



Other recordings

1971

Recordings

1972

With Golda Meir – 1972
24 December

Following his concert in Jerusalem on the 25th anniversary of the State of Israel in the presence of Prime Minister Golda Meir and Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem, Szeryng donates his violin Antonio Stradivarius 1734 "Hercules", Ex-Eugene Ysaye to the City of Jerusalem.

Since then, the violin bears the name of "Kinor David Stradivarius" and is played by the concertmasters of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

With Teddy Kollek – 1972

1973

Recording

1974

12 January

Mexico City – Residence of the Mexican president Luís Echeverría Alvárez. Henryk donates his violin Andrea Guarnerius 1683 "Sancta Theresiae" (see 16 July 1937) to the State of Mexico. Since, it is played by the concertmasters of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México.

With Luis Echeverria – 1974

Recording

1975

7 May

In Tel Aviv Szeryng establishes "The Henryk Szeryng Fund", a loan fund for the acquisition of instruments by members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He will contribute to it until April 1987.

Certificate from Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Scroll of honor from Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

1978

Recordings

1979

Recording

1982

Recording

1983

Szeryng celebrates his 50 years on stage.

1985

28 July

Principality of Monaco - Szeryng donates his violin Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, 1861, a copy of the Stradivarius’ "Messiah" to Prince Rainier III. Since it is played by one of the concertmasters of the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.

1986

Recording

1987

Program Paris 1928 - World Premiere, Reynaldo Hahn, Violin Concerto
Solo part with Henryk Szeryng’s markings
Henryk Szeryng – 1987
19 November

Performance in Atlanta, Georgia - USA premiere of Reynaldo Hahn’s violin concerto in D - Atlanta Symphony, conductor is Louis Lane.
The French violinist Gabriel Bouillon gave the first and only performance to date of this work on 26 February 1928 in Paris with the Orchestre des Concerts Colonne under the baton of the composer. After almost 60 years Szeryng brings the concerto back on stage.

1988

1st March

Performance in Kassel while on a German tour - Johannes Brahms: violin concerto in D, op.77 - Orchester des Saarländischen Rundfunks, conductor is Myung Whun Chung.
In the night following the concert, Henryk Szeryng falls into a coma. He passes away in the early morning of 3 March 1988.

Henryk Szeryng ends his career as he started it 55 years ago: with the Brahms violin concerto. Is it coincidence, destiny or the fulfilment of a wish? Almost 10 years before, on 23 July 1978, he gave an interview to the Mexican newspaper “Excelsior”. One of the journalist’s last questions was “What would you do, if you had only one more hour to live?” and Szeryng answered, “I would play the Brahms concerto.”

The Excelsior - Mexico, July 1978

« I consider music as the noblest language,
bringing comfort, joy, inspiration and peace to mankind.
I think that it is vital that peace be preserved,
and if music can help – then let’s have music!. »
.

Henryk Szeryng